Yesterday in the States here we celebrated “Armistice Day”, better known now as Veterans’ Day. The agreement that was signed between the Allies on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918 marked the ceasing of the horrible hostilities on the Western Front. World War I also proved a good point for the capabilities of women, and the efforts for the passing of 19th Amendment would be productive in the next few years, giving women the right to vote by 1920. In honor of these two past events (so good to learn from with what’s going on lately), I am posting something that I’ve made from the 1910 decade.
In an effort to branch out and explore more historical eras and their fashion, history, and way of life, I’ve taken the first steps towards an authentic 1912 outfit by starting from the inside out…the proper way to get the correct figure when re-creating the past. I’m going with the more advanced, “fashion-forward” two-piece undergarment combinations to go as my first layer against the body under a corset. I am very proud of and happy with both pieces and together with my corset, they make for a wonderfully good way to start.
As far as I know what makes this a brassiere and not a corset cover is the closeness and slimming fit as well as simple decoration. A corset cover has more fullness to it, as well as a set waistband with a sort of ‘skirt’ or ruffle below it. This brassiere is lacking the conventional boning of the time, but this give me options to make my undies work for more than one time period. A full corset and/or a supported dress bodice would more than make up for no boning. The drawers for my set are from a slightly earlier time period, the turn of the century or late Edwardian era as far as I can tell, but still short, poufy, frilly, and open-crouched as they should be for 1910. Nevertheless, most all the under layers historically seem to be light layers in sheer weight linens of cottons, which I adhered to in my versions.
I was even trying to re-create a hairstyle of the popular actress Lily Elsie, at right, one of the most popular beauties of the time.
FABRIC: The main body’s fabric of both pieces is a soft and lightweight handkerchief weight cotton in an antique ivory color.
NOTIONS: All notions are 100% cotton, too (except for a small percent of the modern thread’s content). Most of the trim was bought specifically for this project from Ebay and Etsy sellers because I wanted this to be as authentically close to the original as possible and my town fabric stores don’t carry this kind of neat stuff. However, the cotton eyelet lace for the drawers’ hem came from my Grandmother’s stash of supplies, while the shell buttons for the side closings came from Hubby’ Grandmother’s stash of notions. The cording is half cotton and polyester bought from Jo Ann’s Fabric store. The ribbon shell lace for the brasserie neck and arm holes was bought from a Hancock Fabric store.
PATTERN: The pattern I used for the brassiere was free from here at the blog “historicallydressed.com”. My drawers came from author Jill Salen’s book, “Vintage Lingerie”.
TIME TO COMPLETE: My brassiere was finished on February 16, 2016 after about 4 or 5 hours. The drawers were completed on February 27, 2016, after maybe 8 to 10 hours.
THE INSIDES: Not perfect but cleanly finished and quite nice. Most all seams are covered by the entredeux tape/trim or ribbon. For those that aren’t, the side seams and shoulder seams are a flat-felled finished in my brasserie while the drawers have French seams.
TOTAL COST: The cotton base for the camisole and drawers came from on hand as did the twill tape and thread, so I’m counting this part as free. I bought extra of most notions, but dividing out what amount I used for the brasserie, it comes to a total of $16.00. I used about one yard of entredeux ribbon ($2.00), about one foot of hook and eye tape ($2.00), one yard of embroidered entredeux trim ($7.00), and just over 2 yards of ribbon lace ($4.50), ½ yard of twill tape, and ¾ yard of cotton. The drawers were as good as free (using what was on hand) unless you count $2.00 for the back draw cording.
After looking through all the sources for Edwardian, Titanic, and WWI era patterns I could possibly find, as well as several historical-knowledge sites and blogs, I found myself easily enlightened but yet still confused by all the different ways these three eras are somewhat multi-layered into one another when it comes to what goes under ladies’ clothes. (My favorite internet sources are here at Wearing History and “Lady Carolyn”.) Some Edwardian styles are in the Titanic era, as are some early 1920’s styles found in the end of the Titanic era/WWI times. Now there were some features to undergarments which are crucial to the silhouette of the year or decade, and some little touches to the lingerie reflect that, such as ruffles to fill out a skirt or a bodice at a certain place or princess seams for a long and lean silhouette. However, through those 20 years, I did understand that the mixture of drawers and chemise could be slightly mixed up a bit – one-piece combo ‘chemise/drawers’ under a corset with the corset cover and a slip, or the two separate pieces could be worn under the corset with a slip chemise over that, or even (lastly) a short chemise under the corset with drawers and short cover over corset. All these individual underwear pieces can be seen in this 1917 Sears ad (at right) in the “Everyday Fashions, 1910 to 1920” book by Dover.
Thus, I’m hoping that my readers will take into account my efforts to be accurate, if anyone who knows more than I do sees anything amiss. I want to make something which would work for a good part of the 1910 decade. (I’ve seen an alike set of brassiere and short open-crouch drawers in a 1917 catalog page.) I also want to also stay true to my own personality in my historical sewing, and I can certainly see myself (if I lived back then) drawn to the newest fashion-forward fad of two piece undergarments. It’s funny nowadays to consider this brassiere “new” and possibly “progressive” for its times by being very pretty and two-piece undergarment. (I think camisole tops looking similar were worn out in public in the 1970’s and 80’s, with jeans or hippie bottoms in the “flower child” ideal.) Nevertheless, by wearing the open-crouch drawers, I’d be a not too adventurous woman by adhering to what was considered “proper” bottom first-layer covering since the 1850’s. Open bottom panties were considered indecent when they started being worn about the 1850’s, and then when closed crouch intimates came in during the 1920’s, it was hard for the general society to adopt them until the next decade. All of this is weird, isn’t it, when you think of how underwear is today.
Besides the efforts to research and source all my materials (which was well worth it), making this Titanic era undergarment was easy, quick, and stress-free…and fun! The entredeux trim and ribbon were super easy to work with. I did the seams first which had the entredeux insert, which was the center back and the bust fronts. Then the side seams and shoulders came next as well as the fitting. Too much fitting wasn’t really needed as making the pattern as-is came out a little too big – an easier fix than something which turns out too small! I simply took the seams without the entredeux in a bit more. Finishing the center front seemed best if I folded in the edges back inside to meet at the entredeux trim. This made the entredeux bust line seam come in towards the off center more than the original garment intended, but it works better for my personal fit.
Next, the hemming trim, the laces, and the hook-and-eye tape were added but first, the bottom trim was slightly adapted to stabilize the garment better. As I received it, the entredeux embroidered ribbon had wide raw edges. The original garment had some sort of twill tape simply sewn to the back. Instead, I merely cut a strip of cotton (used for the main body) to sew to the entredeux ribbon at the long edges so I could turn it inside out like a strap/tube. Now it was sturdy with nicely finished edges ready to go on the bottom of the brassiere around my ribcage. The twill tape down the opening was added to keep the hooks off of my skin as well as provide a strap extension to join to the drawers. Everything put on my 1910’s brasserie is very, very close as could be to the old original garment as shown at “historically dressed”.
As for the bottom drawers, the patterns from Jill Salen’s book don’t give much to go on as far as instructions, so I had to do my own research to see some original garments to get the right idea of the construction. Others know more than me, but I believe the books’ dating of these drawers as “1850, pantaloons“ is wrong. Everything I saw and found in my research confirms the pattern and its styling is more of a late Edwardian Era to Titanic era, possibly WWI era, too, for a stretch. This pair of drawers at the Egerland Museum is a carbon copy of my own (from Jill Salen’s book) and they are dated to circa year 1900.
The drawers were relatively easy and fun to make, as well as ridiculously comfy to wear even if a bit silly looking. Yes they do have a completely open crouch, connected only at the waist, but it is undetectable because these are so baggy. I did not change a thing to the pattern – no resizing, hem shortening or anything – and they turned out great. The hardest part was the lack of any instructions or clarification, but with a bit of research, overview of extant pairs, and attention to details in the picture I figured it out.
On each side, there is about a 6 inch by 1 inch (finished size) placket in the ‘bound and faced’ method used on vintage underwear. The placket tops end at the waistband and close with a single button on each side (I used an old carved shell button). The waist is plain in the front, merely faced with three rows of knife pleats on each leg. The back wide waistband has a cord running through it, coming out of a tiny button hole so there is the possibility of adjusting the back tighter. The bottom hem is gathered into more entredeux trim, which then has eyelet lace gathered into that for a frilly finish. Though short, I can totally see the “bloomer” look in these old-fashioned undies.
Now, after all this gab comes the corset. I did not sew this but I did have “Fiorentina Costuming” on Etsy custom make it for me. As I am on the smaller side I do not have metal or spiral boning – only strong plastic canes. It is all cotton (even the lace) and unlined so as to not be too warm to wear or too bulky. I cannot say enough wonderful words about my finished garment, the quickness of her replies to my many questions, and the options she offered me so I could have it just the way I hoped. I am very happy with it.
For being my first corset, it is confining but comfy in its own sort of way. There is something like a one hour span before the corset or my body (don’t know which) acclimates itself to the shaping. This slim, full torso corset certainly does make one walk, sit, and hold posture in an entirely different way! I could be wrong, but I believe this is a pre-World War I style (1913-ish according to here) by the way it comes full up to the bust. This doesn’t quite match with some post World War I garments I’m intending to sew but I do not have enough places to wear clothes from the teens, nor enough free time for extra sewing, to warrant more than one corset for an era. However, I do plan on making an elegant “woman-with-money” 1912 beaded lace evening gown at some point so this will come in handy. Not having a ladies maid (duh), my method (seen here) of dividing the back laces into two parts helps me dress myself and have extra room to use the toilet without unlacing the whole thing.
I did add on my own garter straps to the corset (this blog page helped me out). I know thick, colored elastic is not authentic, but hey – I do what I can. We had an extra pair of child’s suspenders on hand, meant for our son, but they gave me just enough elastic to cut four straps with clips attached to make things ultra-easy. I cut two 6 inch straps for the back sides and two 8 inch straps from the adjustable clips for the center front. Then I simply turned the ends under and stitched down between the boning for total lengths 1 inch shorter than what was cut. Grey is neutral enough that it does not standout too much with my corset and the elastic is super thick so it doesn’t look so much what it really is.
I have the tendency to totally laugh at myself with this outfit – I’m kind of rather embarrassed in it, actually. There is also something between disbelief that I am wearing this and satisfaction in the enjoyment of doing a decent job on sewing such different items from a new-to-me era. Oh well. At least this 1910 under-clothes have prompted a new “dive” into the history of the WWI era – before, during, and after – and learn as much as I can in the most rounded out way possible. I just don’t want to dress the era…I want to understand it.
Now, hopefully the next steps to my teens era outfit will look more decent, and be just as enjoyable for me. This was a wild ride, taking these preliminary steps, but quite interesting. Thank you for making it through this long post so I can share it with all of you.